Sunday, February 3, 2008

Is it okay to be unsure?

Everyone in my family plans to vote in the presidential primaries Tuesday.

None of us is sure who we’re going to vote for.

Polls and studies have indicated that many people make up their mind the day of, at the voting booth. Some people even make up their mind a day or two before.

My weekend–-and my Monday and probably my Tuesday–-will be made up of studying the candidates and finalizing my vote.

Is it ok to vote for someone even if you’re not sure?

I think of it like studying for an exam. You study and study and study, and worry and worry and worry, but finally you realize that you aren’t making any breakthroughs and you might as well just say fuck it and take a break. You’ve read and prepared and outlined to the max, and if you don’t know it now, then you never will. It’s the same for prepping for a speech or a paper: You know the deadline, and extending it just makes the process harder, so you just have to do it. I’m going to take what I know and believe and try to figure out a rationale why I’m voting for a candidate. The problem is that I like many of those running, and many of their positions are similar. I wonder about electability, dynasties, the things that influence me...I read an article the other day about Obama and his chances in the midwest, and a lot of those interviewed made reference to him being a Muslim, and how that worried them. That’s stupid, I thought, they're uninformed, it’s just small-town mindedness and pack mentality. Then I realized that I can easily fall into the same trap, but with opposite reasoning: Basically all my friends are huge Obama supporters, for his vision, youth, and passion, what he represents. Since I live in a different area of the country, one "more liberal", we reject all the nonsense about Obama's religious background. In the same vein, no one I know will vote for Huckabee because he’s an evangelist. We don’t do evangelism here. He’s "the best-liked candidate among people who will never vote for him." My brother, the great follower of politics that he is, dislikes all Republicans except Ron Paul, even though I pointed out to him that some of his beliefs align more closely with Republicans.

I am influenced by all these things, from reading Times editorials every day to listening to my friends expel the virtues of Obama and demonizing Hillary to falling under Andrew Sullivan’s spell in the Atlantic. I wonder at all the things I miss, all the things the media miss. I’ll never feel absolutely informed, and that pretty much goes for any subject. But all I can do is try, and work to constantly separate the minutia from the opinion from the facts to form my own opinion. I cannot not be influenced, from the articles I read to the arguments they give.

So if I'm so ambivalent, why am I even voting at all?

I am voting because I feel this primary is important, and I want to be a part of it, I want to say that I participated in something important and life-changing. If the U.S. is indeed at a crossroads, then I want to say that I was there, I remember, that I took part. My little vote is just one, but it’s something, and being engaged with the world is important to me.

I don’t care about endorsements. I dislike the Kennedys, and so the comparisons of Obama to President Kennedy makes me less likely to vote for him, not more. I pay attention to why newspapers endorse candidates–-for me, that makes a bigger impact than some senator saying "vote for this guy". This might seem irrational at first, as senators, congresspeople and other politicians have worked with the candidates and so have an idea of how they operate, but I never hear specifics from them, nothing concrete, which is what I want to hear--examples, the why and the how. Editorials and commentary from columnists have space to explain, to provide some facts and data.

I'm off to go study. I only have a little time left.


Emily said...

There are very little policy differences between Obama and Hillary (oh look, I just used her first name and his last), besides health care (she wants individual mandates, he does not). Although I may be one of those "under the spell of Andrew Sullivan," I had my candidate leanings before I discovered his blog, and he, along with everything else I have read, have only solidified my decisions.

Republicans are having a difficult time with their candidates, although to be honest I haven't been following them as much, because Republicans have a snowballs chance in hell of winning the White House after how much Bush has ruined their party.

There was a NYT article awhile ago...maybe about a month? That was a big spreadsheet of all the candidates (many more back then) and their views on everything from Guantanamo to health care. It was a Sat/Sun edition. If you could find that, it might be helpful to see them all side by side.

You'll be able to make a decision before tomorrow night, but no matter what it is, go vote!

John said...

(Piggybacking on Emily's comment) also had a web-based breakdown of every candidate's stance on each issue. I'm not sure if it has been updated lately, but it seems like the kind of thing they would keep around.

I'm a little disappointed that Edwards was knocked out of the race before our primary, but policy-wise I support Barack Obama. He may be young and "inexperienced", but I support his stance on the issues more than Mrs. Clinton's.

As with any election, I feel that the important thing is to vote based on issues rather than character traits or a "dynasty" or any other factors not directly related to the management of the country. I can't help but suspect that the republicans are counting on America to show its bigoted and small-minded side at the polls this year and vote solely to keep a black or female person from being the "leader of the Free World." If that title was ever taken seriously, it's a complete joke now. But I digress.

It seems like only people who make a living through the race to the white house are informed enough to make a decision, and even that is tainted by spin and a single perspective. What's a citizen to do? Why, Vote Nader of course! :P